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Thomas DeCoud’s shoe collection is like a flash mob: There are too many in the crowd to count.

We’re talking about athletic shoes. The Carolina Panthers safety owns upward of 900 pairs, “give or take a hundred,” he says, in an expansive collection (or hoarding problem) that he’s been building since high school. “I’ve been a big shoe-head since I was a kid,” says DeCoud, who played for the Falcons before signing with Carolina earlier this year. “It’s pretty bad.”

Take a spin through DeCoud’s Charlotte home (which he purchased in part for the closet space, he says) and you’ll find most of his collection—basketball shoes, running shoes, soccer shoes, football cleats, even tennis shoes. The rest is in his home in Oakland, near where he played college ball at Cal. “After we bought the house in California, I converted an entire bedroom into a shoe library,” says the 29-year-old Pro Bowler. “Once I retire, that’s where the entire collection is going to be displayed.”

Instagram caption: "These thangs cold as ice...."

Instagram caption: "These thangs cold as ice...."

​What may be more surprising than the size of DeCoud’s collection (or that it warrants a library for show) is its composition: Most of the seven-year NFL vet’s shoes are for basketball. “I have a lot of Jordans, LeBrons, Kobes,” he says. “I grew up playing basketball—that was the first sport I ever played. And buying shoes was always an event because they’d sell out of my size.”

​DeCoud wears a 13 or 14—not unusual for a 6-foot-2, 190-pound player—but his foot size has hardly hindered his obsession. “At my peak, I was buying three or four pairs a week,” he admits. “But it definitely slowed down after I got married and had my daughter. Now I just buy one or two pairs every few weeks.”

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One pair every two weeks, to be generous, is still 26 pairs per year, but DeCoud swears he wears every single one he’s ever purchased—at least once. “There’s a lot of people who buy shoes to tuck them away, but I try to wear them as much as I can and as often as I can,” he insists. “I have a running joke with one of my locker mates in Charlotte that if he sees me wearing the same shoes twice, he has to tell me—and then he can make fun of me.”

DeCoud's extensive shoe collection.

DeCoud's extensive shoe collection.

But DeCoud says he’s used to being made fun of. “Everybody knows it what’s I do. Everyone has their little kicks, the things that make them them. I get made fun of—people will say, ‘I bet you don’t have these.’ And then I have them, and they’ll say, ‘I knew that fool did.’”

But any fool who owns 900 pairs is also a fool for details—and DeCoud knows what goes into a good shoe. Here are his fast and quick tips for picking the best kicks:

For basketball: "What makes a good basketball show is cushioning and how it fits your foot—you need to feel connected to the court. And traction is important, because you don’t want your foot to slip.”


For football: “It has to be light and have good traction and fit. You don’t want to feel the foot is slipping in the shoe, with the cuts and the number of times you change.”

For cross-training: “Don’t buy what’s hyped or what everyone is pulsing on. Buy what you like. Design and color scheme matter, but functionality is where it’s at with a performance shoe.”